Above The Stag Theatre’s latest production takes a jaunt back in time to a fictional Eurovision 1995 house party, full of gay characters and camp drama.
Here, writer Jonathan Harvey explains more about the play while director Andrew Beckett chooses his top five all-time favourite Eurovision songs.
Hi Jonathan, what’s the basic story and set up in Boom Bang-a-Bang?
It’s Lee’s first Eurovision without Michael. As a small but far from select group of friends gather to watch it with him, secrets and recriminations spill out, and there’ll be blood on the carpet before the voting of the Belgian jury.
What in particular about Eurovision inspired the play?
I wrote it in 1995. At the time there was a play in the West End called An Evening With Gary Lineker, about a gang of mates getting together to watch the World Cup. I wanted to do a gayer, camper equivalent.
Why did you decide on the Lulu song, rather than call it, say, Waterloo or Save All Your Kisses?
There are a few explosions on stage during the course of the play so Boom Bang-a-Bang suits the story.
Can you tell us about the characters?
Lee’s fella Michael died of a brain tumour a while back but some of his friends have boycotted the party as they think he was lying, and that Michael had AIDS, so there’s a rival party going on down the road. Lee’s friends include a hunky actor who’s always typecast as a wife beater, his coke and ecstasy obsessed twinky pal, Roy, his camp vile old pal, Steph, who’s very big on cruising in communal changing rooms and improvised S and M (with any kitchen utensils he can lay his hands on), and his sister, Wendy, who holds a few secrets of her own. The actor is always rowing with his girlfriend and their arguments threaten to eclipse the Eurovision, worryingly. Lee also has the most boring neighbour in the world, Norman.
The play was written, first put on and set in 1995 – is this production also set then?
It was. It was on at the Bush Theatre, directed by Kathy Burke. It is still set in the same year. It’s a snapshot of life back then.
Us gays still seem obsessed with Eurovision, what is it that makes it so popular?
For me growing up, I was blown away by the lavish sets, huge stages, fab frocks, camp dance routines and exotic languages.
What’s your favourite Eurovision song or moment?
Dana International winning in 1997 and going missing while she changed into a Gaultier frock for the reprise of the song. We recreated it, with Miss International, for my sitcom Beautiful People.
Andrew’s top 5 all-time fave Eurovision songs
1. Ding-A-Dong by Teach-In
2. Euphoria by Loreen
3. Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst
4. Puppet On A String by Sandie Shaw
5. Heroes by Mans Zelmerlow